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Hidden Tax: US Families Pay an Extra $1,000 per Year to Support Religion
When the Constitution’s framers wrote the Bill of Rights, they had a profound purpose for the first amendment’s prohibition on religion in government. Whether or not the framers knew that in the 21st Century the Religious Right would emerge as a real and present danger to America is unknown, but the threat is real and the government is complicit in aiding Dominionists in their takeover attempts. Republicans have assailed women since the start of the 112th Congress at the behest of religious groups, and in states and at the Federal level homophobes are pursuing legislation to deny gays equal rights guaranteed in the Constitution. Beyond supporting legislation to impose Christianity’s beliefs on the entire country, churches receive unconstitutional non-profit tax-exempt status and the clergy receive special tax cuts and privileges working Americans are forbidden from taking. For churches to keep their tax-exempt status they are forbidden from campaigning from the pulpit; however, a religious group is pushing the IRS to remove the prohibition on actively campaigning for legislation or candidates while still maintaining their non-profit status.
The recent special election to replace Anthony Weiner in New York is a prime example of religious interference in government, and actively campaigning by religious groups to defeat a candidate who voted for same-sex marriage in June. A group of 40 Orthodox rabbis sent a letter saying a vote for David Weprin, the Democratic candidate, was violating Jewish law. The problem is that religious law is not supported by the Constitution; something conservative Christians do not comprehend or they would not pass laws forbidding enforcement of Islam’s Sharia law. Two weeks ago in California, an evangelical preacher told his congregation that “the bible forbids Christians from voting for Socialist liberal-Democratic candidates or their anti-Christian agenda that attacks traditional marriage.” The Baptist preacher continued that “enemies of the gospel are actively persecuting advocates of traditional marriage and that if Democrats won elections, preachers would be imprisoned for upholding god’s view that homosexuality was an abomination.” The Southern Baptist Convention affiliate is exempt from federal, state, and county taxes because they are non-profit even though the pastoral staff tells its members how to vote. It is interesting that the preachers drive luxury cars and have no visible signs of support or income except for the money they fleece from the congregation. Nonprofit indeed.
A group of conservative Christian lawyers in the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is supporting California’s Prop 8 in federal court and they are pushing to force the IRS to stop the regulation prohibiting religious non-profits from campaigning. The senior legal counsel for ADF, Erik Stanley said that, “Pastors and churches shouldn’t live in fear of being punished or penalized by the government,” and that, “Keeping the gospel central to what is preached is not in conflict with addressing the subject of political candidates when warranted. These results show that the desire to keep the gospel central does not mean that pastors want the IRS to regulate their sermons under the threat of revoking their church’s tax-exempt status.” Stanley is mistaken when he says addressing candidates is central to any particular gospel because there is no reference in the bible to political candidates or telling adherents how to vote. The IRS does not regulate sermons either; but to retain tax-exempt status, preachers cannot advocate for a political agenda or a candidate to their captive, frightened congregation.
In a survey conducted by ADF and Lifeway Research, 86% of pastors said they disagreed that; “The government should regulate sermons by revoking a church’s tax exemption if its pastor approves of or criticizes candidates based on the church’s moral beliefs or theology.” Whether the preachers agree with the IRS or not, one of the conditions of maintaining tax-exempt status is not campaigning from the pulpit or under cover of religious authority. No church should receive special tax exemption, but if they do they are expected to follow the rules. It is another instance of the Religious Right’s attempt at making their own set of rules that the government must follow. Besides imposing their religious beliefs on the entire population, they are leeches on the American taxpayers.
The economic impact on taxpayers is substantial when considering that when churches avoid paying tax, the cost of maintaining roads, police and fire protection, and schools must be made up by everyone else. When the community picks up the tab for a church’s drain on the community, it is a subsidy and in violation of the separation of church and state. It has been estimated that when church and clergy tax-exemptions are taken into account, the average family may pay up to $1,000 in extra taxes every year to make up for the lost revenue because of the church’s tax exemption and it includes sales taxes, inheritance taxes, income taxes, and personal taxes. It is bad enough conservative Christians are supporting Republicans’ agenda, but it is an outrage that the public has to fund their anti-American advocacy. Americans should not be forced to fund conservative’s agendas that will eventually lead to a theocracy, and yet, some of the groups that support maintaining tax-exempt status for churches are stunning.
There are many liberals who support giving special tax breaks to the clergy and tax-exemption for churches and it is the height of hypocrisy. For one thing, the majority of Christian churches support anti-gay, anti-women, and conservative issues like more tax breaks for the wealthy and elimination of the poor and elderly’s safety nets. How can a liberal oppose tax breaks for the wealthy and support tax breaks for the clergy and their churches? It is incredibly disappointing to discover many liberals unknowingly support the issues they claim to oppose and then expect all taxpayers to join them in promoting conservative issues; especially when the result is a theocracy.
Dominionists have stated their intention is to gain control of every aspect of society and government to install a Christian theocracy and they are well on their way to achieving their goal. Now, they are attempting to control the IRS and change the rules that are in place to protect the Constitution’s separation of church and state. The American people cannot continue being forced to pay churches to undermine democracy and promote hate-inspired conservative-Christian ideology. As the Religious Right gains influence and support from well-funded and powerful religious groups, their supremacy over the government will reach a tipping point that will never be overcome. The Alliance Defense Fund is the tip of the iceberg and as more governors, legislators, and presidential candidates in the Republican Party are emboldened by support from the pulpit, democracy faces a challenge an invading army would envy.
The Founding Fathers could not have predicted that their separation of church and state protection in the first amendment would fall with support from within the government, but that is what is happening and it should frighten the life out of every American. The bible says followers of Christ are supposed to acquiesce to the government, but Dominionists are precariously close to becoming the government. Now they are attempting to control the IRS to force Americans to fund their conservative agenda while they get off tax-free. It is insulting, disgusting and patently unfair that Americans are forced to support Dominionists with their hard-earned tax dollars when the money should go to build roads, bridges, schools and hire teachers, police officers, and fire fighters. Unfortunately, with support from Christian-conservative legislators, wealthy religious groups, and hypocritical liberals it will not be long before every tax dollar goes to the wealthy, corporations, and Dominionists so they can eviscerate what is left of American democracy.